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Former engineer, currently upgrading in physics

  1. Jun 6, 2013 #1

    I did a degree in electrical engineering a few years ago from ottawa
    university, and due to some immaturity and life circumstances (got
    a nasty bout of mono in my first year and barely made it through)
    graduated with an atrocious 2.5 GPA.

    I've always had a love and appreciation of physics, and my math
    physics grades have always been decent (B-range) though my eng
    classes have been less so. I've wanted to
    do graduate studies for a long time, and have been upgrading at
    U of T in the hopes of becoming a competitive applicant. Recent
    years have shown an upward trend of B to B+ in senior classes.

    After a lot of research, reading threads and the like, I'm getting the
    sense that the competition is very fierce particularly in my subject
    of interest (quantum optics) and that even an upward trend will be
    met with failure if I were to apply to any serious research groups.
    Most departments won't even glance at an application that isn't
    B+ or better. I can't correct the past grades, and in spite of improvement
    they seem to be a death-knell to any prospective supervisor.

    Does anyone have any advice on how I could proceed? I feel quite
    defeated in pursuing my goals, and my peers/professors haven't been
    much help.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2013 #2
    Okay I'll offer you some specific advice because I too am a UofT physics student.

    The physics department offers research "courses" over the summer for credit. I suggest that you take one of these "courses". You basically become a part of a research group (usually of your choice, depending on availability), doing the same job as someone with an NSERC or REU, but you don't get paid.

    This will give you the chance to get to know a professor well enough, who might hire you next summer or give you a good recommendation letter. If a professor sees first hand that you do good work, they won't care about your past grades. When a grad school committee looks at your application, research experience and strong letters of recommendation outweigh old grades that are not completely relevant anyways.

    There are a healthy amount of research groups in quantum optics at the department and I know a few students (undergrad) working with them over the summer. Talk to the undergraduate chair about these opportunities. Good luck.
  4. Jun 11, 2013 #3
    Good suggestion Retro10x, I will probably apply next summer assuming I can keep my grades
    in the B to B+ range. I know the ROP positions are also pretty competitive, I just hope prospective
    supervisors can keep those numbers in context. Any thoughts on how competitive these ROP's are?

  5. Jun 11, 2013 #4
    They're not that competitive. If you have a B-B+ GPA you'll be fine. Professors love ROP students because they're free and also willing to work hard (because it's for credit and you get a mark). The professor just needs to know you're not going to waste their time, there is an interview for each one you apply for and you'll probably need to write a cover letter. All of the 4.0 students have REU/NSERC's anyways: they're not interested in ROP
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